Korean Martial Arts: A Comprehensive List

Korean Martial Arts

Korea has been the birthplace of some of the most practiced martial arts in the world. According to Google, many people often ask how many Korean martial arts are there.

We’ve researched and brought you our comprehensive Korean martial arts list. Check out the list of Korean martial arts below, with descriptions of each one included.

How Many Korean Martial Arts Exist?

Around twelve Korean martial arts are currently practiced around the world today. This number doesn’t include the countless lost arts that the public no longer practices.

You can break up the styles of Korean martial arts into four different categories.

  1. Striking Martial Art
  2. Grappling Martial Art
  3. Weapon-Based Martial Art
  4. Hybrid Styles

Gongkwon Yusul

Gonkwon Yusul is a fairly new Korean martial art that was developed in 1996 by Jeong In-Sun. It’s a modern self-defense style that incorporates various Korean and non-Korean martial arts techniques.

Resembling a form of MMA with various strikes, throws, and submissions that are presented like a traditional martial art. Gongkwon Yusul’s popularity has gradually increased since being introduced three decades ago.

Haidong Gumdo

Haidong Gumdo is a sword-based Korean martial art similar to the Japanese sword-based martial arts but with a Korean twist. In Haidong Gumdo, students practice with real and wooden swords called “jingum” and “mokgum.”

Practitioners of this martial art practice perform various sword fighting techniques. Both in a pattern or form while also in real-life sparring matches. Similar to a mix of Kendo and Kenjitsu.

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Hapkido

Hapkido is a hybrid style that’s one of the most effective Korean martial arts that’s currently practiced. The name Hapkido translates to “the art of coordinated power.”

It took the principles and techniques of grappling arts like Judo, ssireum, and different striking styles. Combining them all together to make an effective and multi-faceted fighting style.

Hapkido is one of the styles practiced by the South Korean police and military, along with Taekwondo.

Hwa Rang Do

Hwa Rang Do

Hwa Rang Do is another one of the effective hybrid styles of Korean martial arts. Dr. Joo Bang Lee and Joo Sang Lee founded this style in the early 1960s. 

It’s an eclectic martial art that incorporates various striking, joint lock, throws, and weapon techniques. This martial art also emphasizes the spiritual growth of their students alongside their skill sets.

Kuk Sool Won 

Kuk Sool Won was created by Suh In-hyuk in 1958 after various attempts to establish a new style. It’s a comprehensive martial art that takes techniques from various Chinese, Japanese, and Korean martial arts.

The style encompasses a wide range of striking and grappling techniques, along with traditional Korean weapons training. This is an effective self-defense style with many beneficial techniques you could learn.

Kumdo

Kumdo

Kumido is also known by many as Korean kendo. When the Japanese occupied Korea, they outlawed Korean martial arts and implemented their own styles.

Koreans would pick up the art of Kendo and change the name to “Kumdo.” Like with Kendo, Kumdo also means “way of the sword.”

For Koreans, practitioners of Kumdo would put a Korean twist on the martial art to make it palpable. Changing the names of techniques into Korean and introducing Korean-style techniques. In Kumdo, they also call the bamboo sword they practice with a “shinai.”  

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Shippalgi/Sipalki-Do

Sipalki-Do, sometimes called Shippalgi, is another one of the multi-faceted Korean martial arts. The name Sipalki can be translated to mean the eighteen techniques or skills that the style was founded upon.

The techniques taught at a Sipalki-Do school can vary depending on who the instructor is and who taught them. They may include striking, kicking, blocking, grappling techniques, and weapon training.

Many members of the South Korean military also practice this style of Korean martial art.   

Ssireum

Ssireum

Ssireum is one of the grappling style Korean martial arts that’s considered Korean sumo. Although, the techniques and history of Ssireum are vastly different from the history of Sumo.

It dates back over a thousand years or more in ancient Korea. As time progressed, the sport of Ssireum would evolve into the popular form of wrestling that millions watch today.

This style of wrestling is a mix of Greco-Roman, Judo, and Sumo wrestling that takes place in a dirt ring. The first wrestler who hits the ground loses the match.

Subak/Hwa Soo Do 

Subak is an ancient Korean martial art that was said to have served as the basis for Taekkyon and Taekwondo. The term Hwa Soo Do is another name referring to the art of Subak.

It focuses on hand strikes, kicks, joint locks, and throws. There are many Hwa Soo Do techniques that you can see displayed in both Taekwondo and Takkeyon.

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Taekkyon

Taekkyon

Takkyon may be the oldest of the Korean martial arts that is still practiced today. This striking martial art dates back centuries, taking elements from earlier styles like Hwa Soo Do.

The popular martial art is known for its fluid motion and dance-like movement. It involves many dynamic kicks, footwork, and sweeps that are played like a game.

In Taekkyon sparring, the goal is to knock your opponent off their feet using these fluid movements. Many top Korean Taekwondo athletes also excel at Taekkyon and vice-versa.

Taekwondo 

Of all Korean martial arts, Taekwondo is, by far, the most internationally practiced martial art. Taekwondo was developed after WW2 as a way to help Koreans re-discover their identities. 

The style consisted of many older Korean martial arts styles like Taekkyon, which they were banned from practicing. Koreans got behind the style that consisted of high-flying kicks, spins, punches, and a mixture of them all.

In just a few decades, Taekwondo became one of the most practiced martial arts in the world.  There are over 100 million Taekwondo practitioners worldwide, and it’s one of the few styles that’s an official Olympic event.

Tang Soo Do 

Tang Soo Do is a Korean martial art that was heavily influenced by the Shotokan style of Karate. Also, other traditional Korean martial arts.

It combines a wide variety of punching, kicking, and blocking techniques that are practiced in both form and sparring. When you watch a Tang Soo Do practitioner, you can clearly see the influence of Karate, Taekwondo, and even Chinese martial arts.